Over-the-counter (OTC) medication can be purchased without a prescription. It is easy to buy and the abuse of OTC often goes unnoticed. In this episode of Sisters Without Shame, a concerned parent in crisis needs answers to battle her son’s addiction to Lean or Purple Drank. Social worker Denise de Beer shares her insights on combatting addiction to over-the-counter medications.
“Abuse of OTC is when you use more than the recommended dose and more regularly than recommended. You crave the feeling it gives you or you might mix OTC medication to experience a high,” she says.
De Beer is also the head of the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca) in George, Western Cape.
What is Lean?
Purple Drank or Lean is a mixture of prescription codeine cough syrup and soda or when the desired prescription syrup is not available, OTC cough syrup might be used, says De Beer.
“Hard candy is sometimes also added to the mixture. The name comes from the general purple colour of most codeine cough syrups.”
Typical signs of Lean or Purple Drank abuse includes memory issues, lack of energy, headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, nausea and constipation. Prolonged use can also lead to dental decay, weight gain, urinary tract infections, irregular heart rate and seizures.
“When codeine is consumed in large doses or for non-prescription purposes, it can have extremely harmful effects,” she says.
“In addition, the person might also experience euphoria, loss of coordination, dissociation, intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms and the risk of overdose is high.”
Look out for these signs
To know if a loved one is abusing OTC medication, you can look for the following signs:
- Taking more than the recommended dosage and using more frequently than indicated.
- Continuing to use the medication even when the health issue has been resolved.
- Drinking alcohol while using the medication or combining different OTC medications without being instructed to do so by a medical professional.
In this episode, De Beer also unpacks:
- The most common OTC medicines to be abused.
- Treatment options available for addiction.
Listen to the full interview on Sisters Without Shame
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